There is widespread dissatisfaction with the Office of Personnel Management with the federal workforce. This dissatisfaction has only become worse throughout the years. The question brought up then is “Should OPM be eliminated or reformed?”.
The OPM has stated they work to “recruit, retain and honor a world-class workforce for the American people.” Some of the areas they primarily focus on are,
- Manage federal job postings on USAJOBS.gov and set policy on government-wide hiring processes.
- Conduct background investigations for prospective employees and security clearances for current employees.
- Uphold and defend merit systems ensuring fair practices in every aspect of personnel management.
- Manage pension benefits for federal retirees and their families. Also, they administer health and other insurance programs for retirees and employees.
- Developing new training tools.
- Develop, test, and implement new government-wide policies that relate to personnel issues.
The idea of eliminating the OPM is not a new one. However, this would mean moving their work to other agencies. For as focused as they say they are on HR management and training, they seem to be mismanaged in some ways. There is a consistent backlog of retirement claims and their retirement services customer service has its own issues. It has taken years for OPM to set regulations on policies, i.e. Phased Retirement. It was nearly two years before regulations came out for that policy. There are not enough people doing policy work and furthermore, not enough resources for the people they do have to do their jobs effectively.
One area that OPM is supposed to excel at is oversight. Good oversight means identifying problems before they happen or quickly as to not get out of hand. Again, this is one area the OPM is under-resourced in. Their resources and attention have diminished. Thus, agencies are asked to do their own oversight. This cuts out the checks and balances system that is supposed to be in place. Therefore, agencies over grade jobs, have questionable hiring practices and less than stellar HR programs.
More than half of their budget and manpower are dedicated to background investigations. Since the FBI has a law enforcement agency specifically for conducting these investigations, it would seem logical to move that focus area. Yes, this would cut the OPM’s budget and workforce, but they could work more effectively on the pressing matters of processing retirement claims quicker.
Several federal workers are not satisfied with their agencies’ HR office. If OPM focused more on properly training HR professionals, satisfaction could improve.
Reforming the OPM, or reorganizing it, could help in so many areas; satisfaction of federal employees, refocus on proper training, process retirement claims quicker, etc. Obviously, this change won’t happen overnight, but with a new president set to take office, the question of “Should the OPM be eliminated or reformed?” is one that needs to be addressed.